'Can't rule it out': Belgium could switch to code yellow after carnival break

'Can't rule it out': Belgium could switch to code yellow after carnival break
Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke. Credit: Belga

After several politicians already said that Belgium could likely switch to 'code yellow' on its coronavirus barometer soon, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke confirmed that it would likely happen in March.

At the previous Consultative Committee, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, as well as Flemish and Walloon Minister-Presidents Jan Jambon and Elio Di Rupo, indicated that they expected that more relaxations would be possible from mid-March.

"I hope that we can switch to 'code yellow' relatively quickly," said Vandenbroucke in the Parliamentary Committee on Health on Tuesday afternoon.

However, he did not want to pinpoint an exact date.

"That could be after the Carnival break (from Saturday 26 February to Sunday 6 March), I would not rule that out," he said. "But we will do that based on the dynamics of the numbers, as we did when switching to orange."

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Vandenbroucke pointed out that, among many other relaxations, 'code yellow' means that the face mask obligation can be lifted in schools, for "young people who are more than tired of it."

The switch would also mean that the limits on the number of people allowed at indoor and outdoor events disappear, and only sufficient ventilation must still be ensured. Most notably, however, code yellow also means that the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) will no longer be required to attend events or to gain entrance to hospitality establishments.

On Friday 18 February, virologist Steven Van Gucht predicted that the first condition for taking the next step (fewer than 300 Covid-19 patients in ICU) would be met before the end of February. With 315 patients still in need of intensive care on Tuesday – 35 fewer than when Van Gucht spoke on Friday – Belgium seems to be on track.

However, he warned that it would likely take until mid-March before the second condition of fewer than 65 daily Covid hospital admissions could be met. As of Tuesday 22 February, this number stands at an average of 209.3 patients each day – a decrease of 20% on the seven days before.

An overview of the different measures per colour code on the barometer can be found here.

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